How to Explore Cumberland County’s Civil War History

February 28, 2018

The Museum of the Cape Fear Historical Complex, one of Fayetteville’s prized attractions, will soon be transformed into the North Carolina Civil War & Reconstruction History Center. You don’t have to delve into history books much to discover that Cumberland County was a strategic target for the Union Army. On March 11, 1865, Union troops descended on Fayetteville with one purpose in mind—to take out the Fayetteville Arsenal. Just like the Museum of the Cape Fear, the new History Center will be telling the stories of this infamous day, as well as the Battle of Averasboro that took place here four days later. In the meantime, March is the best time of year for our visitors to learn about the distinct role Cumberland County played in the final days of the Civil War. Strike out on our Civil War Trail, explore our museums and attend some fascinating events right here.

Civil War Trail

Before venturing out to do some exploring, check out the Civil War Trail, an online guide/map that features 28 historic sites and markers pertaining to our county’s Civil War history. You may use this handy tool as an online resource, or simply download and print it. Then it’s off to explore our museums, battlefield and other historic sites!

Market House Museum

Cumberland County’s only National Historic Landmark, located in the center of Downtown Fayetteville, is home to a small museum on the second floor. Although it's normally closed to the public, visitors may take in the museum’s views and local history exhibits each month during Mid-Month Market House Open House (2nd Fridays) and during 4th Fridays at the Market House Museum. For the month of March, the museum will be displaying a temporary exhibit on “Civil War History.”

civil war history in fayetteville

Fayetteville Area Transportation and Local History Museum

In addition to other fascinating exhibits focusing on the people and events that have shaped our county’s history, the Cumberland County Goes to War Exhibit is a great reason to visit this downtown museum. Featuring documents, pictures, artifacts and educational panels, this Civil War exhibit tells the stories of those who served both on the battlefield and on the home-front.

civil war history in fayetteville

Oak Grove Plantation at Averasboro

Along the trail, make one of your stops at the Oak Grove Plantation at Averasboro, in the Town of Godwin. This privately owned home is still standing, despite the fact it was attacked and seized by Union troops, to be used as a Union hospital. Although the home is not open to the public on a regular basis, Oak Grove does host private tours and public events, such as reenactments, several times throughout the year.

civil war history in fayetteville

Averasboro Battlefield & Museum

Just down the road from Oak Grove Plantation is the Averasboro Battlefield & Museum, where the Battle of Averasboro took place March 15 and 16, 1865. This battle was the Confederate Army’s attempt to delay the Union troops from advancing to Bentonville before 25,000 Confederate troops could be rallied there. Today, the story of how this historically underestimated battle played out is well documented at the museum. Visitors may walk the battlefield, tour the museum and visit the Chicora Cemetery to learn all about this fascinating history. The cemetery there is the site of the annual Averasboro Battlefield Memorial Service. On March 11th, the public may watch as folks dressed up in period costume play grieving widows and families burying fallen Confederate soldiers.

civil war history in fayetteville

Museum of the Cape Fear Historical Complex

Visitors to this museum will enjoy their permanent Civil War exhibit. Throughout the year, they offer other opportunities to learn about Fayetteville’s involvement in the war, as well. On March 11th, at a mini-living history event, The Union Occupation of Fayetteville, reenactors will be dressed up in Civil War uniforms and demonstrating what life was like for soldiers during the occupation. Additionally, a talk will be given on “The Magnificent U.S. Arsenal.” If you can’t make this event, visit the historical complex on any given Friday for one of the regularly scheduled Arsenal Tours in Arsenal Park.

civil war history in fayetteville

Besides the Civil War Trail, the Fayetteville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau (FACVB) offers visitors 16 other Cultural Heritage Trails to assist in discovering everything there is to see and do in this area. The FACVB’s Calendar of Events is yet another great resource that features visitor-friendly events taking place here year-round. March happens to be the time of year when Cumberland County also plays host to several wildlife events, outdoor adventures and springtime celebrations; read more about those on “Welcome Spring to Cumberland County.”

civil war history in fayettevilleClick Map for Civil War Trail

Plan your visit to Cumberland County

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